Princess Amrit Kaur, recently voted TIME Woman of the Year 1947 for “championing an independent India”, explores the concept of social service in a fascinating piece she published in the International Review of the Red Cross (IRRC No. 12, March 1962).

“Coming as I do from a country whose civilisation stretches back to many milleniums, I should like to place before you the Indian concept of life which, though it may not be followed in action in modern India, does still sway the minds of our masses.

In one of the greatest of our Upanishads it is said ‘Everything here on earth belongs to Iswara (i.e. God). Enjoy what is given to you. Do not cast eyes of greed on any one’s wealth. To work here on earth is the lot of man. There is no other way. Work and live out your life however long it may be. Work will not leave any sinful residue to cling to the soul, if it is done in the right way with detachment. Those who deny the spiritual being within our bodies commit suicide and the world will be utter darkness for such men. He who sees all others as if he were living in their bodies will not be perturbed by any dislikes or aversions. If he identifies himself completely with the beings around him he emancipates himself from all delusion and sorrow. When your spirit joins the ever-moving air and your body is reduced to ashes, remember your work alone remains behind. Act with this great knowledge. O Fire ! you know all the paths, lead us in the right path. O God ! guide us so that we may not sin.'”

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